Lotus Esprit: The”Submarine Car”

Lotus Esprit
Photo - rmsothebys.com

A rare car and even more unique history, the Lotus Esprit is one that has gained notoriety for many reasons. The car debuted at the 1975 Paris Motor Show and launched for production the following year.

“Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro of Italdesign, the car received (almost) universal praise for its lightweight frame, superior steering feel, and handling. At the same time, it was criticized for a lack of power and for an abundance of noise in the interior,” reports hagerty.com. Further, it was equipped with a 2.0-liter twin-cam four-cylinder engine that was mounted behind the seats and ahead of the rear axle.  This proved to be problematic once it was selected as Roger Moore’s car for the “The Spy Who Loved Me” as Roger Moore was unfamiliar with the mid-engine car.

Most people recognize the car from the Bond movie, in which Moore drove a white, wedge-shaped Lotus that converted into a missile-firing submarine. It was part of the climax to an epic James Bond car chase with motorcycles, helicopters, and the obligatory two-lane road on a treacherous mountainside. Two Esprits were used to make the movie and seven body shells were supplied, with one of which being sealed all around for underwater scenes and converted into a submarine!

In 2013, this fully functional submarine car sold for nearly $1 million at RM Auctions’ London sale.

According to the auction registry, the special-bodied Esprit was shipped to Perry Oceanographics, a marine engineering and construction firm in Florida. They then put in more than $100,000 (roughly $450,000 today) into the car in order to transform the vehicle into a working submarine. The Esprit’s underwater driver was Don Griffin, a retired U.S. Navy SEAL. The buyer of the car and investor behind the project was later revealed as none other than billionaire tech entrepreneur and Tesla co-founder Elon Musk.

After initially buying it at the auction and revealing himself as the owner, Musk said in a statement in October 2013, “It was amazing as a little kid in South Africa to watch James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me drive his Lotus Esprit off a pier, press a button, and have it transform into a submarine underwater. I was disappointed to learn that it can’t actually transform. What I’m going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real.”

While there haven’t been too many updates about the development, many believe that Musk not only finished the project but has taken it out in true Bond fashion.

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